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March 11, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayekhel

This week’s Torah portion begins with instructions from Moses to the people about how to build the Tabernacle- a subject covered in earlier portions before last week’s portion (which focuses on the Golden Calf affair).  Why does the Torah go from the Tabernacle to the Golden Calf back to the Tabernacle again?

Rashi says that there is no chronological order in the Torah, and that all of the Tabernacle-related instructions (both God’s instructions to Moses, covered in the portions of a few weeks ago, and Moses’s instructions to the people,covered this week) happen after the Golden Calf affair.

But Nachmanides seems to disagree, writing: “It is possible that this occurred on the day following his descent from the mountain [after begging God to forgive Israel for the Golden Calf] , and he told all of them the subject of the Tabernacle which he had been previously commanded, before the breaking of the tablets.  For since the Holy One, blessed be he, became reconclied with them and gave Moses the second Tablets…He thereby returned to his previous relationship with them…”

In other words, Nachmanides’ sequence is as follows: (1) God tells Moses to have the people build the Tabernacle, (2) when Moses finishes this discussion with God, he discovers the Calf affair, causing all sorts of unpleasantness, (3) after a few ringleaders get killed and everyone prays for forgiveness, the relationship between God and Israel goes back to where it was before.  Makes sense to me!

So is there a broader point here?  First, the return to status quo ante gives us a lesson in reconciliation: ideally, after fighting and making up with our friends, spouses, parents, etc.  we should go back to where we were before (even if we are a little warier of them).  

Second, the Rashi/Ramban dispute reminds us that there are seventy faces to the Torah (as an old saying goes).  All too often, especially in Orthodox circles, rabbis feed us the cult of Rashi.  But that’s really too bad, since Rashi’s explanations are often the most fanciful.

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